Third finished sweater of the year

I finally finished seaming my Stoker Cowl, and I’m already wearing it. (ravlink to the project page) The pattern came from the Knit to Flatter book, an Amy Herzog-led book of patterns premised on the idea that certain body types should rely on certain design features. Although there is some truth that some designs will look better on one person than another, I think most of the patterns in this book were plain enough to have a pretty universal appeal. I certainly think this one fits that description.

green sweater

This is a very simple sweater with 2×2 ribbing, some basic waist shaping, and that dramatic cowl. I love the cowl. It’s very soft and luxurious to wear, and is every bit as cozy as I’d hoped it would be when I first spotted this pattern. Other than the cowl, though, this is a basic sweater shape, something that I think most women can easily wear. My only changes to the pattern were to lengthen and narrow the sleeves — those sleeves! Geez, did they give me trouble. Remember this from a few months back?


Sleevus Giganticus


I had to reknit the sleeves three times before they were narrow enough to wear, and they’re still too big. This might be partly due to the yarn I used. The yarn is Classic Elite Attitude, a silk-cotton blend that I picked up on a super-special sale for $1.75 a skein a few years back. This yarn is now discontinued, and with good reason. It’s pretty wimpy stuff, prone to pilling, and it drapes and stretches more like an alpaca than a cotton. I suspect the sleeves kept growing because of the yarn. The body is also bigger than anticipated — I knit a 38″ bust size but probably should have knit the next smaller size. It’s not a yarn I would recommend, but I used it because I had leftovers from making this cardigan.

green cardigan

That’s the Strawberry Lace Wrap from Veronik Avery’s wonderful book, Knitting Classic Style (ravlink to project page). I love this cardigan, and people comment on it whenever I wear it. There’s something about that wrap and tie front that is so easy and comfortable. Really a great pattern. So now I have a little twin set of sorts — not exactly the kind of twin set that the pearl-and-tea crowd might go for, but it works for me.

I thought I would also show you one of my favorite tricks for seaming sweater knits. Instead of pinning the seams in place, I use baby hair clips.


They grab the knit and hold it in place without distorting the fabric, and they can handle even the bulkiest knits. And they were very inexpensive. I can’t take credit for this idea — someone else suggested it to me, but it has been so useful that I wanted to pass it along. It’s one of those tricks that, once I used it, I can’t imagine ever not using it.

There are still about 2.5 balls of this green yarn left, and I think I might just pitch it. Comes a point where you just can’t stand to look at the same yarn any longer!

What do you do with your yarn leftovers when you weren’t all that happy with the yarn?




Summer Knitting

I love summer knitting. There. I said it. Whew! Just getting it out in the open like that makes me feel so light and free!

Knitting is usually all about the big, warm, cozy sweater, right? The wool cardigan, the bulky jacket, the stranded or cabled details that add extra warmth. Come spring, in knitting groups everywhere, people will start glaring at the rising mercury and muttering, “I don’t know, maybe some socks or a lace shawl until the weather breaks.” And it’s true that holding a blanket or heavy jumper on your lap in August doesn’t feel very nice.

But there’s so much more to summer knitting than socks and accessories. Don’t get me wrong — I’m an avid sock knitter, and I’ve knitted more hats and gloves over the years than any person could ever need. They’re fun little projects that factor high on the instant-reward scale (as instant as knitting ever gets, anyway). So I do get excited in the hot months about knitting little light bits of froth to drape around my neck or pop onto the ends of various limbs.

Even more than that, though, I love knitting tees and vests and tanks. And tiny little cardigans! They’re perfect for summer when the air conditioner is blasting arctic air all over your bare skin. And little skirts! I can’t wear skirts in Chicago’s frozen winter, but in the warmer months, skirts are the greatest thing ever. A warm breeze against bare legs? Yes, please!

Now that the weather is turning warmer, my knitting time is also turning to warm-weather items. First on the list is this Ankestrick cardigan in a laceweight that I just barely managed to start last summer.

summerhill start

Summerhill in Misti Alpaca Lace

That’s a top-down cardigan using the contiguous shoulder method that I’ve become so addicted to. It’s a great way to ensure a good fit. I find it better, generally, than a raglan in both fit and style, but that didn’t stop me from casting on this raglan cardigan a week or two ago.


Miette in Classic Elite Lush

That’s Andi Satterlund’s popular retro-style pattern, and the yarn has enough angora in it to make it seem even more retro. This is proving to be a quick knit so far, and it might end up living on the back of my chair at the family business through most of the summer. I don’t spend many hours there these days, but I spend enough to want a dedicated cardigan there. This might be it.

I’m eyeballing one, possibly two tunic/minidress things, another Elfe tee, and this extremely cool skirt — check it out.

golfjes skirt

Golfjes from Atalier Alfa

I’m so, so taken with Alfa’s patterns. She blows me away with the inventiveness of her stitches and style lines. That Golfjes stitch pattern makes my fingers itch to cast on. Doesn’t it kind of look like ripples on the surface of a busy lake? I’ve already picked out the yarn I’ll use, some Lorna’s Laces sock yarn in mostly black, gray, and cream, with just a slight touch of red here and there. (Colorways Pinstripe and Embers.) (We’re all shocked that I’m using black and gray, right? But there is SOME red in it!) The yarn is wound and ready to go, and I can’t imagine I’ll hold out much longer before casting this on. Knitting time has been precious, which is probably the only thing keeping this skirt off the needles right now. Every now and then, I see that project bag sitting all forlorn and patient in the drawer, and I coo, “Soon, my pretty, very very soon.”

What are you excited to knit this summer? Or do you put your needles away until the first frost in autumn?


The Gathering Smoke Sweater

The knitting for this sweater has been done for ages. All I needed to do was seam the sleeves and weave in the ends, but I somehow had the hardest time getting to it. You know how it goes when life gets crazy and complicated? And then that one task, the one you would normally do without blinking, becomes something like a holy grail — “OMG, I am *never* going to get that sweater finished!”

Yeah. That’s what happened here. Even after I started working on other things in bits and dabs of free time, I couldn’t quite get to this sweater. Well, eventually, I managed to summon my inner Galahad, and now Arthur can live and the land can be fertile once again.


This is only my second finished sweater of the year! I’ve done lots of knitting, just not much finishing. It feels great to have this one done, if only because it makes me think maybe it can represent the start of a finishing spree. That would be so good. Clear out some of the project bags and free them up for other purposes!

The pattern is the Gathered Pullover (ravlink) from an old Interweave magazine. I lengthened the body just a touch, and I used an applied i-cord edging other than the rolled edges called for in the pattern, but other than that, I knit it as patterned. The sleeves are just a touch long, but I can live with it. It was an easy pattern and went fast.

The yarn is some Carol Sunday Angelic 3-ply I had leftover from making the Cambridge shawl. Here’s the shawl.

cambridge shawl

This is the Carol Sunday shawl pattern everyone wanted to make after the Duchess of Cambridge was spotted out shopping in just such an accessory. Kate’s was olive, and mine is gray — the Smoke colorway, which is a bit heathery and fuzzy from the angora content in the yarn. I was going to make the shawl in a size large, but switched to medium mid-knit and had a bunch of yarn leftover. Even after knitting the sweater, I still have a full skein of the yarn left. It’s really lovely stuff, soft and light and warm. The shawl has held up beautifully over time (though the angora sheds, of course), so I’m hoping the sweater will be fairly sturdy, too. I can already tell this is one I’ll wear constantly through the spring. It’s light, not really a winter sweater, but great for chilly spring days.

Do you have any holy grail projects lingering in your world these days?


Sunday status report and a PSA

First, the PSA.

Before I tell you what happened, I want to tell you that I wasn’t injured. The purpose of this little rant is not to scare you about my condition, but to scare you about using a phone while you’re driving.

I was out running intervals yesterday afternoon — first nice day of the year, really glorious weather, 45F and sunny. All through my neighborhood, people in shorts were washing their cars and basking in the beautiful weather. It was my first time running outdoors since last October, so I was particularly enjoying myself. It was hard, but hard in the way we like physical activity to be hard. Many of my fartlek markers (fire plugs, sewer caps) are still buried under snow, so I was amusing myself by searching out alternate markers and tinkering with distances and speeds. Should have been a perfect first outdoor run of the year.

So I was coming up to a T intersection, running along the top bar of the T, and a guy in a pickup truck was coming up the bottom leg of the T to the point where he would have to turn either right or left. He had a stop sign, and when I started across the intersection, he was far enough back that I would have cleared the intersection well before he reached the stop sign — under normal circumstances, anyway.

Problem was, he was texting. He wasn’t looking at the road at all. He didn’t slow down on approach to the intersection, not even a little, but kept driving as if he was on a straight through-way.

I sprinted to get out of his way and started yelling to get his attention. I still would have cleared the intersection before he got there, but when he heard me yelling, I guess it startled him and he veered off course.

Yes, he hit me.

All things considered, it was a lucky accident. He just glanced his front passenger-side bumper off my hip. I don’t even have a bruise there, though I ache today from head to toe, probably from the adrenaline response. And if I hadn’t yelled to get his attention, he would have hit a parked car across the top of the T, so it’s probably a good thing I scared him out of his texting trance. He parked and got out to check on me, to his credit, and I think he was actually in worse condition than I was. I scared him so badly that his face was deep red and he was sweating as though he’d been the one racing to avoid an oncoming truck. His hands were shaking. And you know what? I’m glad he was that rattled. Maybe he’ll learn something from this.

Don’t text and drive. Put the phone down. That call is not more important than someone’s life. There’s no excuse, none at all, for this behavior. Don’t think you can get away with it just this once. You can’t.

End of rant.

Okay, now that I’m off my soapbox, let’s look at some pretty pictures. This week I’m going to be picking up the pieces of a normal schedule after multiple schedule disruptions over the past several weeks. It feels great to know things should be more settled for the next few weeks, at least. But I really needed to take stock of my projects this morning because I could no longer really remember what I’d been doing on various things.

While madness was unfolding, I had the great idea to cast on a plain ribbed sock. Socks are super easy, super mindless knitting, and I can pick them up and put them down without ever having to ponder the pattern. So I thought, yes, perfect time to cast on a sock, then I’ll have brainless knitting for the crazy times.

But it was so crazy that this is literally as far as I got.


I cast it on and then didn’t touch it again. Too busy.

I did manage to knit the sleeves on my Windbreak (ravlink), but then I grafted the first sleeve on inside-out. I fixed that this morning, but haven’t grafted the second sleeve yet. I’m not sure what I think of this top-up circular-yoke method for sweater construction. It’s not something I’ve done before, and I’m not crazy about it so far. If you’re knitting bottom up, there’s no real advantage to a circular yoke. You lose the top-down fitting benefits, but still have to deal with the awkwardness of a circular yoke. So why are we doing it this way? Maybe there’s a reason, but I’m sure I don’t know it yet.


I pulled out my gathered sweater (ravlink) with the intention of seaming the armscyes and weaving in the ends so I can finally block and wear this one. Pulling it out is as far as I got.


But I’m going to finish this one soon, really, I am. Any minute now…

On the sewing front, the embellished silk taffeta skirt just needs a waistband hook and a hem. This project has been a lot more time-consuming than you might guess because the nature of the embellishments make it very difficult to sew. I’ll blog more on that after I finish the darned skirt.


Here we have a stack of project bags that just need the ribbons for the channels for draw cords, and in the shopping bags are two robes cut but not sewn — one silk, one fleece — and a muslin for a blouse. When the project bags are done, I won’t have to use plastic shopping bags anymore! These will be my next sewing projects. None of these are complex projects, which is probably a good thing right now. I’m trying to get my head back in the game, and that usually goes better if I ease into it.


And that’s where I am today. Aching from head to toe after being hit by a truck, and trying to remember what the heck I was doing before my life went off the rails a few weeks back.

Put down the phones, folks. Really.


Hitting a snag

My Holsten sweater picked a fight with a studded leather moto jacket. The jacket won! So I’ve had to do some snag repair, and I thought I would show you my favorite method. First, the damage.


There are two snags here. The first isĀ  where that long string comes off to the side, and you can see the pull in a horizontal line on the sleeve. Luckily, none of the yarn plies broke here. It’s just a very long snag.

The second is just above that, a spot that appears sort of rough in the middle of the fabric. That snag is actually the trickier of the two, in terms of repair, because one of the plies in the yarn snapped. It also distorted differently than the remaining plies. It’s fixable, but this one will probably never look 100% perfect because of the broken ply.

There are snag repair tools on the market, but I prefer to use a plain old knitting needle. This sweater was knit on size 4 US needles, so I grabbed my trusty Signature 4s and started picking up the stitches where the snag distorted them.


It’s almost like reknitting the row. You’re aiming to pull one leg of the stitch over the needle and resettle it around the needle at the size 4 gauge. As you work the needle along, you pull a bit of the loose yarn through, and eventually it will look like a fabric instead of like a snag again. In this case, I had to tinker with the broken ply quite a lot, and it looks sort of rough on the wrong side, but it’s pretty much okay on the right side.


The needle tip is pointing to just where the snag came though. You can still sort of see where the stitches were a little distorted, but after I mist it with water and let it reblock, it will be fine.

This method takes a little time and care — the Signature’s stiletto points are particularly useful for trying to pierce the center of the distorted stitch, but it can be very easy to split the yarn in the process. So a careful, slow approach is best, but despite the extra time it needs, this method gives really good results, almost invisible.

I’m so glad I was able to rescue this sweater! I love wearing it!


Sunday status report

This is a thing I knit this week.


It’s not a throw rug, though the fabric is a bit ruggy because it’s knit from Noro Kureyon. It’s neither a blanket nor an antimacassar even though it’s draped on the back of the sofa. It’s draped there because all other work surfaces in my house have been given over to the upcoming holiday. Wrapping zones, baking zones, decorating zones — but not a “lay out your knitting for photography in an attractive manner” zone anywhere to be found.

Eventually, this will become a lanesplitter skirt, a Knitty pattern from about four years ago (link). But in order to finish it, I have to block it, and I don’t have an available surface for blocking right now. It will have to wait until the 27th, when all holiday madness will be history and my tables and counters can be reclaimed for regular usage.

At that point, I will make a nylon tricot lining for this skirt, too. The fabric is so coarse and ruggy that there’s no way I would wear it next to bare skin, and it would stick to tights in that weirdly inappropriate way that coarse fabrics stick to tights. So a lining it needs, and the fabric for the lining is on order.

I’ve also decided not to do a knitted waistband, which would be bulky and coarse and itchy and uncomfortable. Instead, I picked up a length of belt elastic and a black belt buckle. I’ll sew the belt right to the skirt as a waistband. It will be smoother and slimmer, and much, much easier to wear.

I’m also about halfway into a gathered pullover.


The body is knitted in the round to the armholes, then divided for the shoulders. I’m right at the point of division now, so a little further along than this picture shows. The cable for this sweater is simple and lovely.


That’s just the bottom half of the cable. With the top half knitted on, it forms a diamond-shaped medallion at the center front bodice. I’m using Sunday Knits Angelic 3-ply for this, yarn which was leftover from a shawl project. Here, I can show you the shawl, too, which I made a couple years ago and wear ALL THE TIME. This is one of the best things I’ve ever knit, a Carol Sunday pattern called Cambridge. Love this shawl.


When I bought the yarn for that shawl, I planned to do the largest size, and bought accordingly — plus a bit extra in case I wanted to knit a hat or gloves, too. I chose to knit the medium instead, and ended up with enough left over for a sweater. This is an angora-merino blend that is so soft and luxurious, yet so warm and cozy, that it will be perfect for the Gathering sweater.

This means I have a lot of half-finished knitting projects laying around here right now. I have a feeling the holiday break and most of January will be given over to finishing what I’ve already started.

Do you tend to work on one project at a time, or lots at once?


Think hurts. Can’t brain.

I’ve been feeling under the weather the past couple weeks — much better now, and better every day — but instead of just sleeping it off like a normal person, I’ve been trying to, you know, live my life.

That has resulted in a few errors, like this beaut.


Sleeve math can defeat me on even my best days. I’m a wordsmith, not a number cruncher. And in this case, I somehow managed to calculate my sleeve heads to reach a proportion somewhere between NFL lineman and that guy at the gym who’s always hogging the mirror in the free weights area. Beefsteak, I’m not, but that sleeve sure is.

So. Yeah. I ripped the sleeve out and will do some new math after I’m feeling more confident in my ability to handle third-grade math. sigh

In the meantime, I’m also intending to return to my 30-minutes-a-day sewing habit. There’s a group on Sewing Pattern Review that sews 30 minutes every day, and that seemed like a great idea to me. I’ve done it before with great success. It’s amazing how much we can knock out in a targeted block of time, really, and how fast the clothes get finished and ready to wear. I set the timer for 30 minutes — my fear is always that I’ll get wrapped up in what I’m doing and the afternoon will vanish without me even realizing it, so the timer keeps me honest. I get daily progress without it interfering with everything else I have to do. Hello, job! Plus, it just makes me happy to be able to sew every day.

Today, for my 30 minutes, I cut out a red Warm Thing of the fitted variety, this time with a straight hem and an a-line shape through the skirt instead of the shirt-tail hem I used before. I also worked on some fleece pants. I’ve decided I want a track-pant style banded cuff at the ankle on these pants (decided after the pants were already basically finished except for the waistband), so I had to alter the existing pants and draft a cuff piece. Then, before I could get any further with that, the bell rang and recess play time was over. I should be able to get that cuff finished tomorrow in my next block of 30 minutes.

Do you have productivity tools like the 30-minute daily habit to keep you on target?